Averted Thailand Terror Attack: Another Chapter in Israel-Hezbollah Enmity

From Thailand to Bulgaria and the border with Syria, Hezbollah is trying to take revenge far from home - this time it failed.

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Tourists walk along Khao San road in Bangkok January 14, 2012.Credit: Reuters

The depth and breadth of the struggle between Israel and Hezbollah, which has spread to locales far from the Israel-Lebanon border, were revealed in a series of reports by foreign media outlets over the weekend.

In Thailand, an apparent attempted terror attack by a Shi’ite group against Israeli tourists was foiled, while, in Lebanon itself, more details were made public about an attack attributed to the Israel Air Force against a Hezbollah base. Meanwhile, tensions on the Israel-Syrian border have risen over the past few days, as the result of efforts by Syrian President Bashar Assad (with whom Hezbollah is allied) to deal with rebels against his regime.

According to the Bangkok Post, the Thai authorities last week arrested two Lebanese nationals who hold additional passports (one French and the other Filipino) on suspicion of planning a Passover attack on Israeli tourists at a key entertainment area popular with Israelis in Bangkok.

Thai police, who are searching for seven additional suspects in a Hezbollah cell linked to the planned attack, announced that they had found bomb-making materials in a house in which one of suspects in custody had been living.

Senior Thai police officials told the newspaper that Israeli intelligence had provided the information that led to the thwarting of the attack.

This is not the first time Israeli tourists in Thailand have been a Hezbollah target. A similar attempt, apparently by Iran and Hezbollah, was foiled in early 2012 and a number of suspects were arrested.

Other terrorist attacks were carried out against Israeli targets in Asia at the same time, notably in India, where an Israeli diplomat’s wife was injured, and in Georgia, where a bomb was planted in the Israeli ambassador’s car. In July 2012, five Israelis and a local bus driver were killed in a suicide bombing by Hezbollah in the vacation city of Burgas, in Bulgaria.

The wave of terror two years ago was depicted as revenge by Iran and Hezbollah for two actions attributed to Israel (although Israel never admitted to them) – the wave of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists and the assassination of senior Hezbollah operative Imad Mughniyeh in the February 2008 bombing of his car in Damascus. Mughniyeh’s place as head of Hezbollah’s terror network has been taken by Talal Hamiyah, and in Israel it is believed that Hezbollah prefers to take revenge far from Israel and without publicly claiming responsibility, so as to reduce the chances that tensions between the sides will deteriorate into war in Lebanon.

This time, too, Hezbollah says it still has accounts to settle for actions it attributes to Israel (and, once again, to which Israel does not admit) – the assassination in December 2013 of Hassan Lakkis, a senior Hezbollah official, in Beirut, and an attack on a Hezbollah base in Jenta in the Beqa’a Valley near the Syrian border in February of this year.

Over the past four months, there have been at least four attacks emanating from Syria and the Lebanese border which Israel has attributed to Hezbollah and the Assad regime. Four Israel Defense Forces soldiers were wounded by an explosive device in one of them. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah belatedly claimed responsibility for another attack, which took place on the Lebanese border on the Mount Dov slope of Mount Hermon.

The Lebanese Daily Star published satellite photos on Friday of the Hezbollah camp at Jenta, taken a little more than a week after the aerial attack attributed to Israel. A comparison to satellite photos from September 2012 reveals that a large building was destroyed which may have been a weapons storage facility. There has been no indication as to what type of weapon was destroyed in the attack, the first attributed to Israel in Lebanese territory (the other attacks, which took place beginning in early 2013, were in Syria.)

On a number of occasions in the past, Israeli leaders have specified weapons whose transfer from Syria to Hezbollah would not be tolerated – advanced anti-tank missiles, precision land-to-sea missiles and mid-range rockets, usually of a precision type.

An increased presence of Israeli fighter jets has been observed on the Golan Heights over the past few days. The explanation, apparently, is that rebel forces have been besieging a Syrian army outpost called Tel Kudna, on the southern Golan Heights border with Israel, for several months. The Syrian Air Force has been attacking concentrations of rebel forces near the outpost, in an effort to break the siege, and attempting to parachute supplies to its troops. Any such approach by Syrian aircraft to the border with Israel results in the immediate scrambling of Israeli planes to protect against a possible breach. That is the basis for the aerial activity, rather than an Israeli move against Syria.